An air pump is essential for maintaining a healthy environment in your aquarium. It’s just as important as a filter or a heater. The best aquarium air pumps improve the cleanliness and oxygen levels of the tank’s water.
Top 12 Aquarium Air Pumps
There are two main kinds of pumps—inline or submersible. And each type is rated according to its flow rate, or how much water it moves each hour. Let\\’s look at a selection of the best air pumps to see which one best suits your aquarium and its inhabitants.
#1 Tetra Whisper Easy to Use Air Pump for Aquariums
The Tetra Whisper air pump is available in a variety of models based on tank size. You can choose one for small aquariums up to 10 gallons, or go all the way up to the 100-gallon version. And if you’re on the fence between one size and the next, it’s usually wise to buy the more powerful pump.
The Whisper is a favorite in-line air pump among home aquarists because it’s quiet. It doesn’t have the characteristic hum that many pumps produce. The dome shape and sound-dampening chambers inside greatly reduce vibrations.
But there are other benefits, too. The Whisper pump comes with an air valve, and it has a lifetime warranty. The only thing you’ll need for it is 3/16” tubing.
#2 Tetra Whisper Air Pump for Deep Water Applications
The Tetra Whisper comes in a version for deep aquariums or ponds, too. It can move air in up to 8 feet of water. And it can handle back-pressure from decorative bubble wands, multiple air stones, and protein skimmers, too.
#3 Aqueon QuietFlow Aquarium Air Pump for Fish Tank
Aqueon’s QuietFlow Air Pump is a companion to the QuietFlow filter from the same company. It comes in two versions, one for up 10 gallons, and one for up to 20-gallon tanks.
This is another very quiet air pump that has a vibration-reducing design. The rubber base absorbs sound and also keeps it from moving.
Next, it has a vertical hose outlet and check valve that keeps the tubing from kinking. Plus, the parts most likely to fail are all easy to replace at home with a kit. Those parts include the check valve, the filter pad, and the diaphragm. And Aqueon offers a 90-day warranty.
#4 Marina 100 Air Pump
Marina’s 100 Air Pump isn’t for 100-gallon tanks as the name might lead you to believe. Instead, it’s for 20-40-gallon aquariums. Many owners report that it’s not very noisy and it produces good air flow. Its quiet operation is due to a sound-dampening pump casing and its rubber feet.
#5 Penguin Power Head 550 Aquarium Pump
The Penguin Power Head 550 Aquarium Pump is appropriate for freshwater and saltwater tanks up to 30 gallons in size. It works with undergravel filters and comes with all the necessary attachments. Owners like it because it’s powerful, durable, and nearly silent.
#6 Fluval Q1 Air Pump
Fluval’s Q1 Air Pump is the version with one air outlet, while their Q2 has two outlets. The Q1 is for 45-80-gallon tanks. And it’s quiet for an inline pump because it has a double-walled construction with a baffle chamber to suppress noise. Customers say although it emits a low hum, it’s possible to eliminate this distraction by placing the pump in a cabinet. And they report that its air flow is very strong even with bubble wands or more than one air stone.
#7 Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump 4 Watt 4-LPM 2 Outlets
Uniclife’s 4-Watt Air Pump suits tanks between 20-100 gallons in size. It’s efficient on power and quiet, too. Its sound level varies between 25 to 40dB depending on the flow rate. And you can use it for saltwater and freshwater aquariums.
Another benefit of this pump is that it has two outlets to connect two separate airlines. With this feature, you don’t need to divide air flow with a T-connector. And the pump comes with 6-1/2-feet of standard tubing, two connectors, two return valves, and two air stones. Plus, Uniclife offers a 1-year warranty.
#8 Uniclife Aquarium UL120 Air Pump 4 Outlets
If you have a large aquarium, the Uniclife UL120 4-outlet air pump can handle tanks with up to 300 gallons of water. The maximum flow rate is 3 liters/minute from each outlet, but you can adjust it to a lower setting. And it only uses 6-watts of power and emits just 45dB of noise.
Another useful feature is that it comes with a built-in check valve in case of power loss. That way water won’t run back into the pump and ruin it. And with a check valve in place, you’re free to locate the pump on a surface below the aquarium if you prefer.
#9 Mylivell Quietest Aquarium Air Pump
Mylivell’s air pump is advertised as ultra-quiet with less than 33dB of noise. It achieves this nearly-silent operation because it has a different design from the typical electromagnetic pump. Instead, air is driven with a piezoelectric ceramic plate. As a result, it also consumes very little electricity and can outlast a traditional pump, too.
The flow rate of this compact pump is 240 milliliters per minute (or 18 liters per hour), which makes it suitable for small tanks up to 30 gallons in size. And it comes with tubing, an air stone, a suction cup, and an instruction manual.
#10 Marina Battery-Operated Air Pump
In what circumstance might you want a battery-operated pump? For example, if you need to transport your fish, or if you want a backup pump in case of power failure. That’s why this small Marina pump is handy.
It comes with an air stone and 18-inches of tubing. And it runs on two D batteries. The batteries drain faster the deeper in the water they are. In shallow water, they can last up to 20 hours.
#11 Penn Plax Silent Air B11 Battery-Operated Aquarium Air Pump For Power Outage
Penn Plax’s B11 battery-operated air pump can keep airflow going in tanks up to 29 gallons in size. You can purchase multiples of the same pump to support larger tanks. Each one runs on two D batteries, but it only turns on when the electricity fails. That’s why it’s an ideal backup for your aquarium.
Although it doesn’t come with a check valve to prevent backflow, it does include tubing and an air stone. And Penn Plax offers a 100% money-back guarantee.
#12 Penn Plax Air Pod Aquarium Air Pump For Power Outage Automatic Turn On Keeps Fish Safe Up to 55 Gallons
Instead of buying multiple battery-operated pumps for a larger tank, try the Penn Plax Air Pod for aquariums up to 55-gallons. It uses four D batteries to keep the air flowing up to 150 hours after a power failure. It turns on automatically when the electricity stops.
As you often see on the best aquarium air pumps, the Air Pod has an adjustable control for the air flow. That’s very useful since you can dial it down to protect a planted tank. Or you can operate it with a small tank, too.
Tips for choosing the best fish tank air pump
When you’re shopping for an aquarium air pump, you can make the decision easier by answering a few questions first. For example, what size is your tank? While most manufacturers state on the box what the maximum recommended size is, your tank’s needs might vary.
Next, do the inhabitants like a higher flow rate, like a coral reef in a saltwater tank? Or is a slow flow rate better, like in a freshwater aquarium with plants?
After you determine those answers, think about the pump itself. If you place a submersible pump inside your tank, will there be enough room for it? And will it add heat to the water?
But if it’s outside the aquarium, will the hum or vibration bother you? Then, there’s always the question of how big it is and where you will place it. Most of the time an air pump needs to be higher than the waterline, or you’ll need a check valve.
Finally, you’ll want to consider a few other features. Some air pumps are powerful enough for water that’s more than 20 inches deep. Or they work well in conjunction with an undergravel filter. Others have multiple outlets to support bubble wands and air stones together for a decorative effect. And some are easy for users at home to repair if needed.
Parts of an aquarium air pump system
Each air pump system includes typical features. Some come with all the parts you need in the box, but others require you to make additional purchases. And some of these devices are extra accessories that enhance your tank.
- Airline tubes, or air tubing—usually 3/16-inch in diameter
- Connectors and T-valves—these little plastic parts let you connect the airline to the pump or divide the flow between different tubes
- Check valves—also known as return valves; these simple gadgets stop water from flowing back inside the pump if there’s a power failure
- Gang valve—a device that gives you better control over dividing the air flow than T-connectors can
- Bubble wand—a tube with several holes in it to create a curtain of bubbles
- Bubble ring—like a bubble wand, but round
- Air stone—a porous rock-like object that breaks the air flow down into small bubbles
All of these things give you the ability to customize the airflow inside your aquarium.
How to quiet down a noisy air pump
No matter how silent an air pump is, you might sense its hum anyway. But there are simple ways to quiet the noise.
To begin silencing the buzzing of your aquarium air pump, examine where it’s located. Is it on a solid, thick surface or something thinner or hollow? Try moving it to a place that will dampen its vibrations. Then try placing a sound-absorbing mat of carpet or foam underneath it. And keep it above the level of the water to avoid back pressure. You might also try putting the pump inside a cabinet or box.
Next, install an extra airline with a T-connector or gang valve to bleed off extra air pressure. Or turn down the flow rate if you can. Then check existing tubing for any clogs and clear them. Also, check air stones to see if they need replacing.
Finally, keep your fish happy by keeping the air pump from directly touching the aquarium walls or floor. This applies whether you have a submersible or in-line external pump. The tank inhabitants won’t appreciate the humming, either.
Using one of the best aquarium air pumps for your saltwater or freshwater tank will keep the water oxygenated and the fish healthier. It also improves the well-being of any plants or coral. It’s a small investment in return for essential benefits.